'PEOPLE' SHIFT IN SALE DATE WILL ROCK INDUSTRY REACHING STORES BEFORE WEEKEND LIKELY TO BE 'WAVE OF THE FUTURE'

By Published on .

Time Inc.'s People is flexing its considerable muscle to get issues to newsstands three days earlier, a shift sure to reverberate throughout the magazine industry.

Wholesalers and retailers have agreed to change delivery patterns starting with the Aug. 4 issue. Already, two other Time Inc. titles, Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly, will be riding the coattails of People's estimated $2 million to $5 million investment in pre-weekend delivery.

BOOSTING SINGLE-COPY SALES

The primary aim in reaching supermarkets, newsstands and other retailers on Friday instead of Monday is to increase highly profitable single-copy sales by matching distribution to consumer shopping and leisure-time patterns.

And any move by People-the industry's biggest moneymaker with estimated annual profits in excess of $200 million-is sure to force others to follow suit.

"This is really significant and going to become the wave of the future. Publishers and retailers are going to see tremendous sales increases with this change," said Gene Alfonsi, senior VP at United Magazine Co., which delivers periodicals to 18,000 retailers in major cities. "Other publications that are not meeting the Friday delivery times are going to have to adjust."

MOVES BY 'TV GUIDE'

Already, Rupert Murdoch's TV Guide-a competitor on some fronts to People and Entertainment Weekly-is making moves to change its delivery. Wayne Campanelli, senior VP for single-copy sales, said the issue on sale Aug. 1 will test early delivery in three markets: Buffalo, N.Y.; St. Louis; and Kentucky. Tests conducted in the Southeast last year yielded a lift in newsstand sales, Mr. Campanelli said.

American Media's National Enquirer and Star currently try to get as many copies to retail outlets before the weekend as its printing plants can handle, said Tony Hoyt, VP-advertising.

For wholesalers and retailers to shift delivery schedules for People is an acknowledgment of its newsstand clout; the glossy averages single-copy sales of 1.4 million copies per week. Its total circulation tops 3.4 million.

Pre-weekend delivery has been a goal of Entertainment Weekly for two years, said Andy Sareyan, VP-consumer marketing. But wholesalers refused to change schedules for that title alone, which sells an average 100,000 copies at newsstand.

INCENTIVE FOR WHOLESALERS

"Now with People asking for it, and being able to bring us and others along, [the wholesalers] have more of an incentive to make it work," Mr. Sareyan said.

The switch from Monday to Friday delivery was tested by People with two major supermarket chains earlier this year, resulting in lifts of up to 24% in newsstand sales, said Greg Harris, director of consumer marketing.

"If anyone had told me two years ago that we could get double-digit sales increases by moving delivery from Monday to Friday, I would have said, 'Yeah, right, sure," said United Magazine's Mr. Alfonsi. "But then we see the test results, and, well, I guess old dogs have to learn new tricks."

To make the change, United Magazine is shifting drivers' schedules, renegotiating some union contracts and rerouting trucks. "It has been a lot of modification to our system," Mr. Alfonsi said.

People is also making major changes to prepare for earlier delivery. The editorial deadline is shifting from Wednesday to Tuesday, causing some editorial staffers to work weekends. Printing schedules were renegotiated and shifted, which caused other Time Inc. books to shuffle print times and printing plants.

NEW AD OPPORTUNITIES

People Publisher Nora McAniff said the new schedule allows her to sell tie-in ads to advertisers who may be running in-store promotions.

"If we are in the checkout aisles, it makes sense to use us to call attention to a promotion," she said, adding that she also sees opportunities for automotive advertisers to promote test drives or for movie marketers to plug sneak previews.

The main advantage of pre-weekend delivery is that supermarket racks will be fully stocked when the most customers are in the stores, Mr. Harris said.

While People has certain outlets now getting pre-weekend delivery, such as airports, train stations and newsstands in major cities, those locations account for only 10% to 15% of its newsstand market.

Rich Jacobson, president-CEO of Time Distribution Services, said all three Time Inc. titles should see a dramatic lift in retail sales as a result of the move. Pre-weekend delivery tests of Sports Illustrated, which sells an average 90,000 copies at newsstands, netted increases in excess of 20%, he said.

During testing, "reader satisfaction scores rose significantly, as did those who said they would renew," Mr. Jacobson said.

Despite their frequency, newsweeklies are not as likely to follow People's lead. Time and Newsweek rely on weekend deadlines for their timeliness. In addition, both are largely subscription-driven, relying less on single-copy sales.

In this article:
Most Popular